Allied Cooperation in Europe on the Eve of World War I

  • Post category:Issue XXI

Oleksandr Potiekhin
Doctor of History, Full Professor, Makarenko Sumy State Pedagogical University, Chief Reseach Fellow, Institute of World History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

ORCID 0000-0002-1856-2672
DOI 10.37837/2707-7683-2020-5

Abstract. The article puts forward an opinion that the current crisis of world order requires reverting to discovering the reasons of World War I.
The author states that in 1914, a majority of decision-makers believed they had a dominant strategy; thus, the policy they followed was the best, irrespective of another party’s actions. The complicated task of clarifying the concerns and intentions of others as well as predicting the aggravation of the situation as a result of their actions was not taken into account. The quest for minimising responsibility and increasing comfort while taking bellicose measures hindered the realisation of the fact that a more cautious strategy was a safer option.
The military and political alliances, including the Entente Cordiale (the Triple Entente) and the Triple Alliance (after Italy’s withdrawal, the Central Powers), the defence purposes enshrined in secret agreements notwithstanding, were established for waging wars but not for maintaining peace by mutual containment. Fragile arrangements between the two alliances did not allow them to prevent opponents or partners from unleashing the war and subsequently halt hostilities after the failure of a range of envisaged strategic operations.
The states continuously threatened each other with their actions, and repeated attempts to create the impression of a threat of aggression, although without any intention to use military force, undermined international stability. The efforts of European leaders constituted a diplomatic game, as the parties bluffed and sought to play trump cards they never had. The initial stakes, particularly colonial and territorial claims of actors, were negligible as compared with the incommensurably higher payback – the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German, and Ottoman empires, and the two totalitarian revolutions in the 20th-century Europe, Russian (Bolshevist) and German (Nazi). The author concludes that it was not allied obligations that prompted states to choose a certain side; rather, each country’s government decided to join the war on their own, guided by spurious ‘national interests’.
Keywords: World War I, Entente, military and political alliances, Europe, 20th century.

Download Article (ukr)

1. Snyder, G. (1997). Alliance Politics. London: Cornell University Press, p. 352. [in English]
2. Ibid., pp. 350-351.
3. ‘Avstro-germanskiy dogovor 1879 g. o soyuze’ [The 1879 Austro-German Dual Alliance], in Shatsillo, V. (ed.). (2005). Mirovyye voyny XX veka, vol. 2. Pervaya mirovaya voyna: dokumenty i materialy [World War I: Documents and Materials], 2nd ed. Moscow: Nauka, p. 8. [in Russian]
4. Ibid., p. 7.
5. Ibid., p. 8.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., p. 7.
8. Utkin, A. (2001). Pervaya mirovaya voyna [World War I]. Moscow: Algoritm, p. 22. [in Russian]
9. Hastings, M. (2017). Pervaya mirovaya voyna. Katastrofa 1914 goda [Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914]. Moscow: Alpina, p. 85. [in Russian]
10. MacMillan, M. (2013). The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. New York, p. 362. [in English]
11. Ibid., p. 367.
12. Ibid., p. 368.
13. ‘Obrazovaniye Troystvennogo soyuza v 1882 g’ [The Formation of the Triple Alliance in 1882], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 9-10. [in Russian]
14. Ibid., p. 10.
15. Ibid., p. 9.
16. MacMillan, The War, p. 363-365.
17. Takman, B. (1972). Avgustovskiye pushki [The August Cannon]. Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya, p. 192. [in Russian]
18. Telegram from German Ambassador at Rome to the German Foreign Office in Berlin (1914), 31 July [online]. Available at: [in English]
19. ‘Deklaratsyya o vykhode Italii iz Troystvennogo soyuza ot 4 maya 1915 g.’ [Declaration on Italy’s Withdraw from the Triple Alliance Dated 4 May 1915], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 428-429. [in Russian]
20. Mashevskyi, O. (2010). Problema Chornomorskykh protok u mizhnarodnykh vidnosynakh (1870 r. pochatok 1920-kh rr.) [The Problem of Black Sea Straits in International Relations (1870 – Early 1920s)]. Kyiv: Akvilon-Plius, p. 481. [in Ukrainian]
21. Ibid., p. 489.
22. Ibid., p. 505.
23. Ibid., p. 507.
24. Ibid., p. 509.
25. Ibid., p. 510.
26. ‘Konventsyya 1901 g. mezhdu Rossiyey i Angliyey po delam Persii, Afganistana i Tibeta ot 18/31 avgusta 1907 g.’ [The 1901 Convention between Russia and England on Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet Dated 18/31 August 1907], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 19-24. [in Russian]
27. Howard, H. (1931). The Partition of Turkey. A Diplomatic History, 1913–1923. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 72-74. [in English]
28. Ibid.
29. Howard, The Partition, p. 84.
30. Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 10-13.
31. Kennan, G. (1984). The Fateful Alliance France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War. New York: Pantheon Books, p. 32. [in English] DOI 10.1086/ahr/90.3.671-a
32. Ibid., p. 97, 220.
33. Ibid.
34. ‘Russko-germanskiy soyuznyy dogovor ot 11 (24) iyulya 1905 g.’ [, in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 18. [in Russian]
35. Kennedy, P. (1989). The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. New York: Vintage Books, p. 431. [in English]
36. ‘Girs – Morengeymu’ [Girs to Mohrenheim], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 11. [in Russian]
37. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall, p. 443.
38. ‘Anglo-frantsuzskoye soglasheniye, 8 aprelya 1904 g.’ [The Anglo-French Agreement, 8 April 1904], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 16-17. [in Russian]
39. Sidney, F. (1934). Proiskhozhdeniye mirovoy voyny [The Origins of the World War], vol. 1. Moscow: GSEI, p. 141. [in Russian].
40. Takman, Avgustovskiye pushki, pp. 78-79.
41. Ibid, pp. 82-83, 90-91.
42. Khvostov, V. Istoriya diplomatii [The History of Diplomacy], vol. 2. Moscow: GIPL, p. 719. [in Russian]
43. Ibid., p. 720.
44. ‘Pisma Khauza prezidentu. London, 26 iyunya 1914 g.’ [House’s Letters to the President], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 110. [in Russian]
45. Takman, Avgustovskiye pushki, p. 143, 150.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid., pp. 180-181.
48. Ponsonby, A. (1928). Falsehood in War-Time: Propaganda Lies of the First World War. N.P.: Allen and Unwin [online]. Available at: [in English]
49. ‘Angliyskiy posol v Peterburge Byukenen – ministru inostrannykh del Velikobritanii seru Eduardu Greyu 25 iyulya 1914 g.’ [English Ambassador in St Petersburg Buchanan to British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey 25 July 1914], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 50. [in Russian]
50. Ibid.
51. Takman, Avgustovskiye pushki, p. 195.
52. Ibid., p. 197.
53. ‘Soglasheniye Rossii, Anglii i Frantsyi o nezaklyuchenii separatnogo mira 23 avgusta (5 sentyabrya) 1914 g.’ [Declaration of the Triple Entente 23 August (5 September) 1914)], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 344. [in Russian]
54. Van Evera, S. (1999). Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict. London: Cornell University Press, p. 219. [in English]
55. Hastings, Pervaya mirovaya, p. 83.
56. Ibid., p. 84.
57. Jervis, R. (2017). Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 86-87.